Biblical Occultism: Does Scripture Advocate Occultism? -- By: John Ferrer
CAJ 09:1 (Spring 2011) p. 25
Biblical Occultism: Does Scripture Advocate Occultism?
An easy case can be made that the Bible strictly forbids occultism. The direct teaching of Scripture unabashedly prohibits various forms of occultism, suggesting that every form of occultism that could be named was there blacklisted. However, Scripture has more to say about occultism than simply “don’t do it.” Occultism itself is an amorphous phenomenon, adapting and growing, such that a comprehensive prohibition is nearly impossible to state. Passages like Deut. 18:10-12 prohibit divination, witchcraft, sorcery, spell casting, mediumship, spiritism, and necromancy. But elsewhere in Scripture there is a more positive sheen on what seems to be occultism. Does the use of Urim and Thummim constitute divination? What about “casting lots?” And the “trial by ordeal” in Numbers 5 designed to test a woman’s fidelity sounds like a magic ritual, right? Did not Saul and the Witch of Endor actually call up the spirit of Samuel? How are these types of “exceptions” to be reconciled with the explicit prohibitions of Scripture? Do these examples suggest merely natural and theistic causes in-line with
CAJ 09:1 (Spring 2011) p. 26
Scripture, or are there implicitly approved occult causes lurking behind the Bible’s “storefront” prohibitions?
The question of biblical occultism is not merely an issue of special revelation. The question lends itself to both science and theology, to natural revelation and special revelation. The Bible, God’s special revelation, affirms natural revelation, proclaiming that God is revealed in an orderly and intelligible universe of discovery, with cause-effect relations of extra-mental objects for rational deduction and empirical observation.1 Scripture also testifies to occult forces, where it is not always clear whether the activity is powered by humans, by nature, or by demons.2 Far from excluding naturalism, the supernaturalistic worldview suggested by Scripture embraces all of naturalism (i.e., natural causes) and goes further to suggest that non-natural forces may also be at work. Among the non-natural forces at work, Scripture is clear that there are supernatural causes such as God and angels who can act, or at least have acted, in the world. However, Scripture notes other causes that do not conform to the known forces of nature, nor can they be safely attributed to God or (unfallen) angels. These may be fallen angels, or they may be natural anomalies that science has yet to explain. This middle category I will refer to as “occu...
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